fbpx

Bruce Conner
It’s All True, New York

22 September 2016

“I am / an artist / an anti-artist / a romantic / a realist / a postmodernist / a beatnik / subtle / confrontational / accessible / obscure / spritual / profane / it’s all true.” This is how the uncompromising Bruce Conner (1933-2008) described himself, and it is how the MoMA recalls him at the entrance to the retrospective it has dedicated to his work—which will move on in the coming months to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid. An exhibition that produces a sense of unease from the very first room, reserved for the screening of A Movie (1958), 180 snippets from 16-mm films in which the narration of the American myth is transformed into a disquieting representation of war, violence, atomic bombs and sexual exploitation. It is followed by numerous assemblages, all made between 1959 and 1963, before the emergence of Nouveau Réalisme in Europe. Piles of amputated dolls, cigarette butts, razor blades, hats and objects of dubious origin wrapped in stockings that look like cobwebs and cover them all in a uniform spectral gray. Conner was disgusted by American society—by the unblemished and self-assured image the country had of itself after the Second World War—and reacted by invoking a mix of earthy reality, religious iconography and Hollywood archetypes set in a landscape of death. The disgust reaches its peak in the Little Museum of Horrors, a collection of zombies made of wax and discards of various kinds: an apocalyptic vision of humanity that seems to turn into an attempt to create a sort of perhaps cathartic and certainly obsessive order: that of the drawings in the Mandala series, which he would go on producing from 1962 until the end of his life, along with videos and photographs. After all, if art has a moral duty not to make compromises with the truth, nothing, not even art, can take hope away from the artist.

Bruce Conner: It’s All True
Curated by Stuart Comer, Laura Hoptman, Rudolf Frieling and Gary Garrels
MoMA, New York
July 3-October 2

Installation view of BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 3-October 2, 2016. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck.

Installation view of Bruce Conner: It’s All True. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck.

 Installation view of BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 3-October 2, 2016. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck.


Installation view of Bruce Conner: It’s All True. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck.

 Installation view of BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 3-October 2, 2016. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck.


Installation view of Bruce Conner: It’s All True. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck.

 Installation view of BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 3-October 2, 2016. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck.


Installation view of Bruce Conner: It’s All True. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck.

 Installation view of BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 3-October 2, 2016. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck.


Installation view of Bruce Conner: It’s All True. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck.

 Bruce Conner. BREAKAWAY. 1966. 16mm film (black and white, sound). 5 min. Digitally restored 2016. Courtesy Conner Family Trust. © 2016 Bruce Conner.


Bruce Conner, BREAKAWAY, 1966. Courtesy: Conner Family Trust. © 2016 Bruce Conner.

 Bruce Conner, LOOKING FOR MUSHROOMS, 1959-67. Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Accessions Committee Fund purchase), with the generous support of the New Art Trust. Courtesy: Conner Family Trust. © 2016 Bruce Conner.


Bruce Conner, LOOKING FOR MUSHROOMS, 1959-67. Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Accessions Committee Fund purchase), with the generous support of the New Art Trust. Courtesy: Conner Family Trust. © 2016 Bruce Conner.

 Bruce Conner. 23 KENWOOD AVENUE. 1963. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and partial gift of Achim Moeller in memory of Paul Cummings. © 2016 Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


Bruce Conner, 23 KENWOOD AVENUE, 1963. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and partial gift of Achim Moeller in memory of Paul Cummings. © 2016 Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 Bruce Conner. BOMBHEAD. 1989. Collage of found illustration and photocopy. Courtesy Conner Family Trust. © 2016 Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


Bruce Conner, BOMBHEAD, 1989. Collage of found illustration and photocopy. Courtesy: Conner Family Trust. © 2016 Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Bruce Conner. HEART/WORM/MIRROR. 1960. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bagley Wright. © 2016 Conner Family Trust, San Francisco / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, and Vivian Kurz. Photo: Ben Blackwell, courtesy San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Bruce Conner, HEART/WORM/MIRROR, 1960. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bagley Wright. © 2016 Conner Family Trust, San Francisco / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, and Vivian Kurz. Photo: Ben Blackwell. Courtesy: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

 Bruce Conner, LOOKING GLASS, 1964. Collection SFMOMA, gift of the Modern Art Council © Estate of Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Ben Blackwell.


Bruce Conner, LOOKING GLASS, 1964. Collection SFMOMA, gift of the Modern Art Council. © Estate of Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Ben Blackwell.

Bruce Conner. BLACK DAHLIA. 1960. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase. © 2016 Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Bruce Conner, BLACK DAHLIA, 1960. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase. © 2016 Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 Bruce Conner. CHILD. 1959-50. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Philip Johnson. © 2016 Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital image © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: John Wronn.


Bruce Conner, CHILD, 1959-50. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Philip Johnson. © 2016 Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital image © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: John Wronn.

 Bruce Conner. SOUND OF ONE HAND ANGEL. 1974 Collection SFMOMA, purchase © Estate of Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Ben Blackwell.


Bruce Conner, SOUND OF ONE HAND ANGEL, 1974. Collection SFMOMA, purchase © Estate of Bruce Conner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Ben Blackwell.


Sara Dolfi Agostini

A curator and journalist, she lives between Italy and the United States, but often changes course to visit museums, biennials and artists’ studios. Specializing in contemporary art and photography, she is a member of the Milan Triennale’s advisory board. Sara co-curated the public art project ArtLine Milano and wrote the book Collezionare Fotografia (2010, with Denis Curti). She has been contributing to Il Sole 24 Ore since 2008.


leave a note